Wednesday, June 17, 2009


America's Most Dangerous Huckster, the Man Who Pursued Him, and the Age of Flimflam
Pope Brock
hardcover, 2008
$19.95 (was 24.95)

In 1917, after years of selling worthless patent remedies throughout the Southeast, John R. Brinkley -- America’s most brazen young con man -- arrived in the tiny town of Milford, Kansas. He set up a medical practice and introduced an outlandish surgical method using goat testicles to restore the fading virility of local farmers and thousands of paying customers quickly turned “Dr.” Brinkley into America’s richest and most famous surgeon.

Eventually, his notoriety captured the attention of the great quackbuster Morris Fishbein, who vowed to put the country’s “most daring and dangerous” charlatan out of business. Their cat-and-mouse game lasting throughout the 1920s and ’30s.

Despite Fishbein’s efforts Brinkley prospered wildly. When he ran for governor of Kansas, he invented campaigning techniques still used in modern politics. Thumbing his nose at American regulators, he built the world’s most powerful radio transmitter just across the Rio Grande to offer sundry cures, and killed or maimed patients by the score, yet his warped genius produced innovations in broadcasting that endure to this day. By introducing country music and blues to the nation, Brinkley also became a seminal force in rock ’n’ roll.

In short, he was the most creative criminal this country has ever produced.

No comments: